INSAR Statements: June 26, 2020
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INSAR Statements on Discrimination and the Black Lives Matter Movement

June 26, 2020

Racial discrimination, injustice and oppression are pernicious facets of society that require no less than a societal effort to eliminate. However, the effort cannot only be exerted in one moment in time. Only sustained awareness and action will be sufficient to surmount centuries of discrimination. One recent example of sustained action is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement organized in 2013 in response to George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin in the United States. Recent events attest to the need for broad societal support.

INSAR stands in solidarity with the Black community in denouncing racism and prejudice and institutional discrimination. As such, INSAR is committed to contributing to a sustained enterprise for social justice for Black people. To this end we call upon all members of INSAR to educate themselves about systemic and institutional biases and barriers for Black people, to speak out against discrimination in their professional and personal circles, and to take action to advance anti-racism in all aspects of autism research.

We will also expand on our efforts to create, facilitate and/or deliver diversity, inclusion and equity in training as a fundamental, integral and widely accessible part of annual society meetings, regional meetings, and outreach activities. In particular, we will strive to enhance educational and career opportunities for Black students and scientists in the field of autism research. We will also strive to expand our emphasis on working more effectively to ensure the diversity of our research and to insure that information related to the positive impact of treatment and other clinical services reaches the widest and most culturally diverse community.

Work in these areas has begun through the many efforts of INSAR Committees, including the Cultural Diversity, the Early Career, the Student & Trainee, and the newly formed Autistic Researchers and Global Senior Leaders committees. Additionally, INSAR is committed to promoting diversity in our leadership structure, along with our commitment to training and advancement of Black students and professionals. In the coming weeks we also hope to commission a related commentary for Autism Research, the society journal and to begin to explore scholarship funding for Black Students pursuing careers in autism research. Today, though, perhaps the most important thing for members to do is read the following eloquent statement written for INSAR by Professor Brian Boyd, University of Kansas, on why Black Lives Matter to the Society.

- INSAR Board of Directors and Cultural Diversity Committee 

Black Lives Should Matter to Us, Too

As Representative, and Civil Rights icon, John Lewis recently said, “When you see something that is not right, not fair and not just, you have to say something. You have to do something.”

Sometimes it’s easier for us in the research community to not say or do anything about the larger problems of the world, and simply wait for them to pass us by as we seek comfort in our labs and offices. However, we know from a long line of behavioral treatment research that there are times when ignoring a problem actually makes it worse. Perhaps this is one of those times. I don’t know if this moment truly represents an inflection point on racism and discrimination in society. At least in the U.S., there have been other moments throughout our history that we thought were inflection points, such as passage of the 13th amendment to abolish slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, or even the election of former President Obama. Yet, here we are in 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, with worldwide protests condemning the lingering effects of systemic racism.

We have heard and said the most recent names of Black men, women, and children whose lives were lost to police violence and racism – Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and now, Rayshard Brooks. However, their names join a list of names that has become too long to remember. In fact, many of us likely have forgotten the name Charles Kinsey. At the time, Mr. Kinsey worked as a behavioral therapist at a residential care facility for people with developmental disabilities. Fortunately, his life was not tragically taken; however, he was shot by a police officer while out searching for an autistic resident who had wandered away. Mr. Kinsey was shot three times while lying on the ground with his hands in the air as the young autistic man played with his toy truck nearby.

We essentially know how we’ve come to this moment – structural and institutional racism as well as implicit biases have sustained and perpetuated disparities in communities of color. We are now witnessing the consequences of inaction. Some in our INSAR community may be asking, “What does this have to do with autism?” Well, it is more than likely that Black parents of children with autism, or Black autistic adults involved in your research or with whom you interact have experienced racism, and so, are deeply and personally affected by what is happening right now in the world. Black, autistic people and their families are not exempt from the wounds of racism.

Yet, in order to translate this moment into an actual inflection point on racism, we must all dedicate ourselves to active engagement in anti-racist actions, in our homes, communities, and yes, in our research. We should know more about the effects of racism and discrimination on the outcomes and lives of autistic people of color, including those who are racially Black. Conducting research on Black lives is an action we can take. Here is one list of other anti-racist actions from the University of Connecticut. The point is to stop seeking comfort in our offices, ignoring the issue of racism, and commit to doing something to finally address an issue that should not be ignored any longer. There is hope, power, and purpose to be found in taking action

If we truly believe, as a field, that diversity in all its forms should be embraced and celebrated, then we should not be hesitant to say; in fact, we should boldly proclaim that “Black Lives Matter!”


Brian A. Boyd, PhD
Associate Professor & Director, Juniper Gardens Children’s Project
University of Kansas

INSAR Committee Statements

Autistic Researchers Committee (ARC) Statement

Student & Trainee Committee (STC) Statement

INSAR Strategic Plan

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